In McLeod Ganj (a suburb of Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh), monks and tourists trade places – monks amble around with cameras, tourists with prayer beads. This dulcet hill station, that truly awakens only when the Dalai Lama is in town, is home to some of the warmest coffee shops in this corner of the world. Head out there and you’d always be swapping stories over steaming mugs and spicy aromas.
Rogpa Shop & Cafe
A small space stocked with quirky accessories on one side and a messy kitchen on the other, Rogpa is all brick and wood, burgundy and rust. The fridge is covered with Polaroids of all those who work behind the scenes and is a charming place to settle down with a book. The coffee isn’t half-bad either. But, as I learn later, the cafe is just a front for trying to change the world – one diaper at a time. The Rogpa Charitable Trust runs a free day care centre where cute little tots are taken care of in a bid to help single mothers and struggling parents.
Common Ground Cafe
Common Ground is an attempt to start a conversation between the Chinese and the Tibetans. Amid stories, videos and cups of coffee, a bridge is being created between the two miffed sides. Started by Wen Yan, an American-Taiwanese girl, the place is a beehive with regular screenings, talks, international programmes, art and cultural nights. It’s a place where locals come to eat authentic Chinese fare while browsing through books on the two cultures. A regular photography workshop also helps them in documenting life in exile.
Coffee shop at Green Hotel
While there are other notable mentions such as Cafe Illiterati (a bookshop in the guise of a coffee shop) and Mama's Kitchen (owned by the local rock band of three brothers - JJI Exile Brothers), it’s the Green Cafe at Green Hotel that gets my vote. This terrace cafe is brightly-coloured and filled with sunshine and dog-eared books. A superb wide-angle view of the Dhauladhar range means that you can drink your hot chocolate while watching the snow slowly lose its cool.
Author : Deepti Parekh Shah